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Guided tours
Backcountry camping
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Machu Picchu is one of the world's most famous tourist destinations. Pictures of the ruins are increasingly seen across all kinds of feeds. The incredible views are hard to deny. Despite the teeming crowds of over 2,000 people who make their way up the mountain each day, it is still a remarkable destination packed full of fascinating history and excellent exploring. October to April is the rainy season, so it's best go between the late spring and early fall. With that said, the citadel is still beautiful in the rain, and there are rarely crowds.

In general, the site is often shrouded in fog. Pretty much every morning, there is a thick blanket, but it generally burns off by late morning. It's worth bringing a waterproof jacket as rain is quite common in this area. 

The Palace Complex

The main grounds follow a set course that can only be followed in one direction. Plenty of guards keep watch ensuring rules are obeyed. The route meanders through the ruins stopping at several key locations. From the main tourist gate, it ascends through farming terraces toward the lower levels of the city. As you walk through, you can chart the importance of the districts by the size of the granitic blocks that make up the building sites. Temples and religious sites have the largest blocks, followed by aristocracy and then the simpler homes of tradespeople and farmers. Pass less traveled, blocked-off sections of the city into wide open field areas toward more temples and eventually back up through the city gate.

Nearby Hikes

When your tour concludes, you are free to visit the other four sites of interest. Machu Picchu Mountain and Huayna Picchu require booking in advance. These peaks each have gates with long lines; wait your turn to head up. As there is a limit on the trails a too avoid overcrowding, it is not uncommon to spend over a half-hour waiting. Huayna Pichu is the more famous peak that appears in the most iconic photos, and it is the steeper, much shorter hike. It leads to several more temples and buildings and is more historically important.

Machu Picchu Mountain is longer and a much more grueling hike. It requires a good deal of time to complete. While it lacks historical significance in the same way, it allows for the most iconic views and the most beautiful vistas of the whole area. 

There is also the Incan Bridge, a short 20-minute walk around the corner that looks out to a long walkway that traverses a vertical face beneath Machu Picchu Mountain. It's staggering to think of the engineering required to keep this ancient pathway aloft.

Lastly, the Sun Gate is a 30-minute walk to the old and official entrance to the citadel city. This is where the Incan trail trekking route ends.


Getting to Machu Picchu is hardly simple. There is a great deal of complexity surrounding Machu Picchu. From the awkward transport options to the permits and tricky accommodation, there is a multitude of options. If you don't fancy the task of working it all out, then a guided group will save you a lot of hassle. You can get tours for $400 from Cusco, not including cost of accommodation. Trips can be booked online or through one of the many agencies in shops around Cusco. If you plan things out well in advance and like the challenge of finding your way, then read on.

New rules state that you need a certified guide to enter the park. This rule appears not to be enforced yet, but if required the Peruvian government has a list of certified guides on their website. Selfie sticks, tripods, and more items have all been banned as well. More useful information is available at

Getting there

To get to Machu Picchu, you first need to get to Aguas Caliente. This curious town is built entirely by the tourist trade and is a very new creation—so new that lessons of history are lost. If ever you find yourself wondering why Inca would build their home on a mountain, you need only look to the annual floods that ravage the little town in the valley. There are also no roads to this town, only a train and footpaths for access. While it is possible in a day from Cusco, it really isn't worth rushing. Staying in Aguas Caliente is necessary for the full experience. 

If you are coming from Aguas Caliente, you will need to either hike in via the Salkantay Trek, Vilcamba, Cachicata, Lares, or come via rail. It is possible to come by Peru Rail Expedition Line ($140) via Cusco (4 hours), or a bus-rail combo via Ollyotambo (3 hours). There are many options, and is best to compare the multitude of options. You can find travel agents in Cusco who can make arrangements for you.

There are three ways to get to Machu Picchu itself:

  1. Inca Trail: This is the only way to walk directly into Machu Picchu via the original route. You will pass through the southern Sun Gate. You will need to have all your tickets sorted before entering the national park. 
  2. Bus: There is a series of buses that run up to the ruins from Aguas Caliente. Lines begin forming at about 5 a.m., sometimes earlier. It's strongly recommended to get here as early as possible to avoid the worst of the crowds and to take full advantage of the hikes up near the ruins. The buses ascend and descend a very steep and very narrow set of switchbacks. If you are prone to vertigo or get car sick, this will be challenging.
  3. Walking: It's a hour-long walk from Aquas Caliente following a grueling series of stairs to get to the park. The advantage of this route is that it allows you to beat the bus traffic, but it's no easy hike, and watch out for the buses going up and down the road.


There is a great deal of complexity to the system of tickets at Macchu Picchu. Most importantly, you cannot get your tickets at Machu Picchu itself. It is possible to buy ticket in Lima, Cusco, and Aguas Caliente. Bookings can be made in advance online, which is highly recommended well ahead of your trip. Spots fill up fast, and if you're hoping to hike Huayna Picchu you need to get in well in advance. When you pick up your tickets, be sure to have your passport. Student, senior, and child prices are available.

There are limited tickets available each day:

  • Machu Picchu: 2,500 tickets per day, US $45
  • Machu Picchu + Huayna Picchu: 400 tickets per day, divided into two groups of 200 people each, US $68
  • Machu Picchu + Machu Picchu Mountain: 400 spaces per day, US $62

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

Park entrance fee

Open Year-round



Iconic. Beautiful vistas. Great history. Surprisingly worth braving the crowds.


Very crowded. Complex logistics. Hard to get to.


Family friendly
Flushing toilets
Guided tours
Historically significant
Native artifacts
Big vistas
Geologically significant
General store



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